In this episode, my guest is autism advocate, speaker, and prolific author Jennifer Cook. Since being identified as being on the autism spectrum in 2011, in conjunction with all three of her children, Jennifer has become a powerful voice in the world of autism advocacy, with a special focus on girls on the spectrum. If Jennifer’s name sounds familiar to you, you most likely have one or more of her Asperkids books, which are highly empowering books which Jennifer wrote just for kids on the spectrum. She’s also the author of Sisterhood of the Spectrum, and the memoir Autism in Heels: The Untold Story of a Female Life on the Spectrum. Jennifer’s work has led to collaboration with the National Institutes of Health Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee, the President’s Council on Disabilities, the Autism Society of America, Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls, and multiple media outlets.
We cover so much ground during our conversation…everything from labels and diagnosis, to the limits of language and the power of reframes, to the unique challenges and reality for girls on the spectrum, and so much more. From this conversation, you will truly get a feel for Jennifer’s passion and her relentlessly positive approach to the world.
About Jennifer: Jennifer Cook is an American author and speaker. She is known for her six Asperkids books, which have been translated into six languages and include the winner of the Autism Society of America’s Book of the Year Award. Her memoir Autism in Heels: The Untold Story of a Female Life on the Spectrum is a Wall Street Journal Bestseller, a “Best Book” title winner by Publishers Weekly, and named one of both the “Best Autism Books of All Time” and “Best-Selling Autism Books of All Time” by BookAuthority.
She was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome in 2011, just after all three of her children were diagnosed with the same condition. In 2019, she became the inaugural Senior Directorial Consultant for Jefferson University Hospitals Jefferson Health Center for Autism and Neurodiversity in Philadelphia, and was selected to address the United States’ National Institutes of Health Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee regarding the unique issues surrounding women, girls, and autism. Cook advised the President’s Council on Disabilities and President’s Council on Sports, Fitness, and Nutrition at the White House in 2015, and had a voice in the creation of Julia, the first autistic character on Sesame Street.
She is a featured contributor in Dr. Tony Atwood’s Top Aspie Mentors: Been There, Done That and Autism & Learning Differences, and wrote the forewords to Dragonfly: A Daughter’s Emergence from Autism: A Practical Guide for Parents and Easy to Love, Hard to Live With. Cook sits on the Autism Society of America’s Panel of People on the Spectrum, is a columnist/expert panelist for Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls, Autism Asperger’s Digest, Zoom Autism Magazine, AuKids Magazine, Special Magazine, and the Journal for the North American Montessori Teachers’ Association NAMTA, and is a commentator on National Public Radio‘s WHYY and WFAE as well as Fox’s WTXF-TV and NBC’s Charlotte Today.
THINGS YOU’LL LEARN FROM THIS EPISODE:
- Glimpses into Jennifer’s story as a woman on the spectrum and as a mother of three differently wired children
- The importance of reframing, while also recognizing the difficulty that comes with downplaying challenges
- The unique challenges associated with misidentifying girls on the spectrum and why they are often misdiagnosed
- The Asperkid’s (Secret) Book of Social Rules: The Handbook of Not-So-Obvious Social Guidelines for Tweens and Teens With Asperger Syndrome by Jennifer Cook
- Asperkids: An Insider’s Guide to Loving, Understanding, and Teaching Children with Asperger’s Syndrome by Jennifer Cook
- Sisterhood of the Spectrum by Jennifer Cook
- The Asperkid’s Not-Your-Average Coloring Book by Jennifer Cook
- Autism in Heels: The Untold Story of a Female Life on the Spectrum by Jennifer Cook
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